Monday, November 28, 2005

Autodesk Partners with MapServer

Autodesk Press Release - Autodesk Contributes Web Mapping Software to Open Source Community

Further Info: Directions Mag Article - Excellent & detailed article by Adena Schutzberg, Nov 28 '05 (Must Read)

Slashdot Article

This certainly qualifies as one of the biggest GIS stories of 2005.

Autodesk, maker of AutoCAD, has joined the MapServer community by becoming a founding member and major financial sponsor to the new MapServer Foundation. In addition, Autodesk is contributing its web mapping software to the MapServer Foundation and releasing it as open source.

This certainly is a smart move by Autodesk, if they want to get back onto the same web mapping field that ESRI is playing on. For years Autodesk has had web mapping software out there, but it has gained zero traction. I can't even recall the name of it. Is it MapGuide? Maybe that’s a sign of how popular that product is.

Autodesk isn’t the only winner in this move. MapServer too should see a good boost from this partnership and the formal creation of the MapServer Foundation.

MapServer hasn't needed a corporate giant to reach the level of success that it has achieved. This has a lot to due to with the brilliant and dedicated developers that have given so much to the effort. However credibility has been one of the biggest uphill battles for MapServer. Companies have been reluctant to accept the reality that MapServer is a viable spatial web solution, because it didn’t have a corporate base driving the development. Now that Autodesk, certainly a well established GIS application provider, has joined forces and is backing MapServer, I think it will be easier for new web mapping users and current ArcIMS users to recognize that MapServer is a real solution and give it a fair shot when considering their options.

At the 2005 MapServer conference (conf. materials) a lot of people were openly and even a little angrily wondering why Autodesk showed up and agreed to participate in a panel discussion. The speaker from Autodesk got more than his fair share of pointed questions. Now it seems pretty clear that it wasn’t merely a means of eyeing the competition but that they were considering a partnership with MapServer.

What is to be seen is if Autodesk wants to be a fair and equitable player in continuing to enhance MapServer as an open source product or somehow absorb MapServer as a corporate product and derail its development by driving out the development team through bickering over the direction and/or structure of the software. I suppose that will be a big part of the growing pains MapServer is about to undergo over the next couple of years. How will the application and community change once Autodesk crawls into its bed...

The other major uphill battle MapServer has consistently faced, beyond a credibility gap, is that there isn’t tech support for non-web mapping geeks or those willing or able to get over the technical learning curve. So the next good news that I am hoping to hear is that Autodesk will be willing to take on a technical support role for MapServer. Most GIS shops already use and trust Autodesk products. So if they provided both MapServer solutions AND some form of tech support – I think ESRI’s ArcIMS is going to get a big kick in the ass.

Autodesk has joined forces with the leading members of the open source web mapping community to jointly take the next step in open source web mapping technology. The groups working together to launch and sponsor this effort include DM Solutions Group, the University of Minnesota, and Autodesk.

The MapServer Foundation has been established to provide a business and operational framework to better support the ongoing development of open web mapping technologies including MapServer, the most widely open source web mapping platform.

Autodesk has contributed it’s next-generation web mapping platform to the foundation as an open source project. -- source --

Autodesk's web mapping software will be released as "MapServer Enterprise" under the GNU LGPL, and the current version of MapServer will be released as "MapServer Cheatah" under its current MIT-style open source license. I haven't tried MapServer Enterprise yet, but the source is already available for download.

Another exciting addition is Autodesk's MapServer Studio. A preview of the application is available for download (bottom of page, 122Mb).

Autodesk MapServer Studio is an authoring environment that handles all aspects of collecting and preparing geospatial data for distribution on the Internet. Modeled after popular web development tools, Studio provides a unified environment that enables you to rapidly create spatial applications using an intuitive and familiar interface.

MapServer Studio puts files and resources close at hand and provides the ability to preview the application you’re creating without publishing to a server. MapServer Studio enables you to work in your preferred programming environment—PHP, .NET, or JSP—while providing 100 percent consistency among the APIs. -- source --


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